Wednesday, February 19, 2014

In Which The Eagles Appear

The morning ride. Went up the hill at MMU. I slipped on ice near the top, but did not spill.

On Tuesday, it got up into the 40s, but it had snowed Monday, and I assumed the streets might not be in shape for a bike commute. I didn’t leave campus until around 7:30 p.m. (I have a late class on Tuesdays), and, frankly, the drive home said “you were right.” The streets were terrible.

But, Wednesday was the second warm day in a row. I knew there would be too much ice in the morning, but my wife suggested I could take my bike to work in the van and ride it home in the afternoon, I said, “sure.”

I was thinking of the Cedar River Trail. They usually clear it, and I hadn’t been by the river lately. I’ve heard there are lots of eagles in that direction, but had not seen them.

Well, when I turned south to head towards downtown, I encountered some rather slushy, icy parts of the trail that slowed me down a lot. I wanted to get home before it was too late, so I was worried I would not have t time to see any eagles.
Eagle in a tree by Cedar Lake.

But, what a pleasant surprise! Where a creek enters Cedar Lake on the north end, there is a small patch of open water. There were hundreds of gulls and crows and ducks crowded in and around that open water.

Eagle leaves a tree near Cedar Lake

And eagles. Young, brown headed eagles. Adult, majestic, white-headed bald eagles. I’m not even sure exactly how many, but quite a few.

I had some trouble photographing them, since the little point-and-shoot Nikon I always have with me doesn’t relate well to autofocus when zoomed in at maximum telephoto. It would have been nice, at that point, to have my full-sized SLR Nikon with me, although, then again, everything I had with me got rather splattered by the slushy mess I sometimes had to go through.

I guess it’s good that I just had the smaller camera. And I got to steal some precious minutes just watching those improbable birds. Real bald eagles are so big and so powerful that they look fake, like some comic strip artist’s idea of a dangerous bird. I know they don’t always get along with people—those who have to live in proximity with eagles don’t appreciate a raptor that wouldn’t turn down a small dog as a snack—but for me, a city boy who never saw eagles until recently, they still seem like magic works of art. Birds of such a size, silence and steely gaze that the close relationship between birds and dinosaurs (as in, some biologists say birds are basically dinosaurs who survived) isn’t hard to believe.

A trio of eagles among the crows on the ice. An adult eagle at left eats. A juvenile and another adult nearby.

Well. Splashing through the slush and worrying about rusting my bike were totally worth it. A winter storm strikes tomorrow and more cold weather after that, so maybe it will be a while before I pass this way again.

I’m glad I rode 8 miles on the way home. I’m glad I took the time to detour south for a while. The lake is fun to see in summer, too—but late winter, with the eagles, well that was just super cool. A few more photos.
View from the trail bridge that crosses McLoud Run. Most of the trail is in good shape. Saw two other bikers but many more walkers and runners on the trail.

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